“Dad, what happened?” she asked him. “I heard two big booms and people are running.”
Boston Fire Lieutenant Frederick Lorenz was walking back to the race route from Shaw’s Supermarket when he heard the explosions. When he saw crowds of people running from the scene, he set his container of hot soup on a wall and started running toward the blasts.
Told there might be an unexploded third bomb under the grandstand, District Fire Chief Dennis Keeley ordered two firefighters to get down on the ground and train their hoses on the spot, covering for the bomb squad in case another fiery blast came as they crawled in to find it.
Other firefighters knelt on the ground nearby with bleeding victims, grabbing belts from bystanders and cinching them tight around nearly severed limbs. “The ones who weren’t making the noise were the ones who needed help” the most, said Lorenz.
Many of the Marathon runners themselves stopped running and started helping victims. Natalie Stavas, a pediatric resident who had been running the race with her father, immediately came to the aid of a young woman bleeding profusely from a blown-open thigh.
“As soon as I saw the wound,” she said, “I began screaming that this woman needed to be sent to a hospital.” When paramedics took the injured woman away, Stavas ran about 30 feet down Boylston until she found another young woman to treat.
No one could know it then, but the week that began in a rush of chaos and horror would end Friday night as SWAT team members with submachine guns inched forward toward the blood-stained, tarp-covered boat where the younger Tsarnaev lay hiding. Millions of people watched spellbound, wondering how the saga would end. When it was over, with Tsarnaev in custody, they rushed, cheering, into the streets.
But the ultimate success of the investigators’ mission — the capture of the suspects, one alive and one dead — depended in equal parts on luck, the heroics of police and civilians, and the startling incompetence of the Tsarnaev brothers themselves. They may have figured out how to kill, but engineering a getaway seemed beyond them.
The siblings, in many ways, made it easy for investigators. Instead of fleeing the city in the chaotic aftermath, they stuck around, seemingly unconcerned that thousands of investigators were looking for them. It took three days for the FBI to cull and then release the crucial images of the suspects from thousands of hours of video. An hour before, Dzhokhar was still at his dorm at UMass Dartmouth.
Yet even with the seeming ineptitude of the suspected bombers, law enforcement officials didn’t know exactly who or where they were until Thursday night, after the Tsarnaevs allegedly began shooting at them in a quiet East Watertown neighborhood.
Acts of bravery were woven into the week’s fabric, from the carjacking victim who escaped from the terrorists when they stopped for gas to the Watertown police officer who faced off with Tamerlan Tsarnaev in a gunfight in the dead of night on Laurel Street, shooting at him from 12 feet away and then tackling him to the ground.
There were moments, too, that might have ended tragically but for a bolt of luck that struck when it was needed. When Watertown homeowner David Henneberry stood on a ladder and peered into his boat, the Slip Away II, noticing blood pooled inside, it was only fate or chance that the injured young man hidden there had no gun to shoot him.
From beginning to end, law enforcement efforts were hampered by confusion and misinformation, what some call the “fog of war” that envelops every emergency operation, especially one this large. Authorities first thought terrorists had also struck the JFK library in Dorchester. They battled rampant Internet rumors that labeled innocent people as suspects, and false reports in the media of an arrest. At one point on Friday, federal agents feared the younger bombing suspect had eluded their dragnet and fled to New Bedford, based on a mistaken report that his cellphone had been detected there.
In the 102 hours that passed between the bombings and the capture, law enforcement leaders faced difficult choices, about whether to release the photos of the subjects to the public, and when to lift the shelter-in-place order that transformed the city overnight into a ghost town.
And the decision-making started even before the smoke had cleared.
MOnday, 2:55 p.m.
‘We’ve got amputations’
Police Commissioner Davis had just hung up the phone on his conference call with the White House when it rang again. It was his superintendent in chief, Dan Linskey. Davis could hear sirens in the background. Continued...